The best thing about the Wikipedia* is how easy it is to use it to accuse someone of assassinating someone famous. The second best thing is when you catch someone editing a page nefariously for comedy effect in the moments before some Good Samaritan of Internet Encyclopedias shows up to fix it.
While doing a spot check on which Pope was in charge during the 1130’s (Innocent II), I spotted this tiny bit of attempted hilarity. Instead of Pope Benedict XVI, the list of popes ended with:
|Pontificate||Common Name||Regnal Name||Personal Name|
|19 April 2005 to present||Pope Palpatine I||Darth Sidious, Episcopus Romanus||Joseph Alois Ratzinger|
For the record, by the time I reloaded the page, the entry had been changed back. According to the edit history, it took about twenty-four minutes for someone to spot the change and put right what once went wrong. But thanks to said edit history, the joke will remain as eternal as the page.
Someone should start a blog devoted to wiki-jokes. I’m sure there have been some good ones that don’t involve the JFK assassination. On the pope page alone, I found the attempted creation of a pope named Tin Tin XVI (“the first pope to covet a french cartoon character”) which lasted all of a minute, and then repeated attempts of a person called Schizoider to change the entire list of popes to a ten entry list helpfully entitled “THIS IS NOT VANDALISM”. Supporters of the popes rejected by the tyrrany of Wikipedia, like Pope Jew, Pope Hitler, Pope Queen Elizabeth II, and Pope Willy on Wheels were probably upset to find that said list only lasted for two hours before it was labeled vandalism by someone who clearly did not read the title. The war lasted for a couple of days back in October of 2005 before, presumably, the jokesters lost interest.
But if the jokesters had picked a less prominent target, wouldn’t it be very likely to remain for days and days? The Vatican probably has a rapid response team of crack commandos dedicated to keeping relavent wikipedia entries clean, holy, and doctrinal. But can the same be said of obscure U.S. Vice Presidents? Or twelfth century Swiss nobility? Or pretty much anything medieval? I’m the most techno-literate medievalist I know, and if I’m a good example, techno-literate medievalists are more interested in saving the Mushroom Kingdom from alien invasion than patrolling the Wikipedia.
I’ve long considered the article on the folk motif of the King in the Mountain to be an elaborate** wiki-joke, because it lists Teddy Roosevelt as one of those sleeping heroes, like King Arthur or Frederick Barbarossa, who will one day return to unite his land. I’m often tempted to change this entry, but always shot through with the doubt–What if there actually is a legend about the Once and Future Teddy Roosevelt? Or worse, what if it’s actually true? I don’t want to have to answer to a Zombie President who returns from the grave.
*Other than how its existence ensures that I have no need to even pretend that I have memorized the names and dates of rule of the medieval English monarchs.
**Elaborate, because according to the edit history, Teddy Roosevelt has been on the list of Kings in the Mountain since it was first created.